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Clinical psychologist: Job description

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Clinical psychologists aim to reduce the distress and improve the psychological wellbeing of clients. They use psychological methods and research to make positive changes to their clients' lives and offer various forms of treatment.

Clinical psychologists often work alongside other professionals in multidisciplinary teams in order to deal with complex patient problems.

They work with clients of all ages on a variety of different mental or physical health problems including:

  • depression and anxiety;
  • mental illness;
  • adjustment to physical illness;
  • neurological disorders;
  • addictive behaviours;
  • challenging behaviours;
  • eating disorders;
  • personal and family relationship problems;
  • learning disabilities.

Typical work activities

Clinical psychologists tend to work with one particular client group, such as children or people with learning disabilities. They also often work in a particular setting, for example a hospital or through social services.

Tasks can include:

  • assessing a client's needs, abilities or behaviour using a variety of methods, including psychometric tests, interviews and direct observation of behaviour;
  • working as part of a multidisciplinary team alongside doctors, nurses, social workers, education professionals, health visitors, psychiatrists and occupational therapists;
  • devising and monitoring appropriate treatment programmes, including therapy, counselling or advice, in collaboration with colleagues;
  • offering therapy and treatments for difficulties relating to mental health problems such as anxiety, depression, addiction, social and interpersonal problems and challenging behaviour;
  • developing and evaluating service provision for clients;
  • providing consultation to other professions, encouraging a psychological approach in their work;
  • counselling and supporting carers;
  • carrying out applied research, adding to the evidence base of practice in a variety of healthcare settings.

More experienced clinical psychologists are often called on to write legal reports and act as expert witnesses. They keep detailed paperwork about clients in order to monitor the progress of the clients' treatments.

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Written by David Bond, Birmingham City University
October 2013

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